A SALISBURY city councillor and train driver has welcomed the news that the government has announced a U-turn over plans to close the vast majority of railway station ticket offices in England.

Tom Corbin, who is the Labour councillor for Bemerton Heath and former Mayor of Salisbury, has said it "sounds very positive", but is remaining caution. 

In September, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had suggested closing ticket offices was "the right thing for the British public and British taxpayers" as only one in 10 tickets were sold currently in ticket offices."

Salisbury would have been one of 153 stations on the South Western Railway (SWR) network to be affected had the plans gone ahead but today, (Tuesday, October 31) the UK Government stated its intention to drop this course of action. 

Salisbury Journal: Salisbury Cllr Tom CorbinSalisbury Cllr Tom Corbin (Image: Newsquest)Read more: Campaigners rally to save ticket offices

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said train operators have been asked to withdraw the proposals as they “do not meet the high thresholds set by ministers”.

Cllr Corbin told the Journal: "The first positive sign we've had but my union is ASLEF. They make a mockery of the fact that they have repeatedly asked the Transport Secretary Mark Harper to meet and to try to resolve these issues.

"There has been a lack of government guidance coming down to resolve the dispute. There's no incentive for them."

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The unions have been striking to stop the closure of the ticket offices, as well as to protect workers terms and conditions for more than a year but discussions about closing ticket offices goes back to 2020. 

Cllr Corbin added: "There just seems to be a long line of Tory ministers who don't get involved through choice. They are certainly doing nothing to fix things. I think the government under Boris Johnson and now Rishi Sunak is absolutely hellbent on having a fight with the unions. 

"There is a definitely a government-led hatred of the railways." 

The U-turn comes after transport watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch said they would not be recommending any closures following 750,000 responses from individuals and organisations in a public consultation. 

Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, Jacqueline Starr said: "We listened, and we pledged that the vast majority of cases, stations with staff today would continue to be staffed tomorrow and with similar operating hours.

"All stations will have a single welcome point, developed in partnership with accessibility groups and passenger bodies. At a time when the use of ticket offices is irreversibly declining, we also want to give our people more enriching and rewarding careers geared towards giving passengers more visible face-to-face support."

The Rail Delivery Group confirmed that plans now would not be taken forward but other ways to improve the passenger experience would be considered.